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Valentine's Day – A guide for ‘singletons’!

Sweets and cupcakes on display at Boxwood Gallery in Glasgow, Scotland

By Ellie Buchdahl at Education UK, 29 January 2014

Where is the love? This has always been my big question of Valentine’s Day. Paper hearts, tasteless chocolate, sickly songs featuring the word 'baby'… call me the Ebenezer Scrooge of February, but when it comes to the 14th, I can’t help being like the grumpy old man of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol on Christmas Day. 'Bah, humbug!' to Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day was originally a Christian festival. By the 15th century, people had already started sending love letters on February 14 – even Shakespeare’s Hamlet has a reference to St Valentine’s Day, if you feel like having a look for it! Today, people from many religions celebrate by showing their love for their partner, or by sending a card to someone they admire.

That all sounds very sweet, but if you don’t have a partner, Valentine’s Day can be lonely… and if you’re an international student, and your boyfriend, girlfriend, friends and family are in a different country, it must be terrible!

At least, that’s what I thought – until I met the students across UK campuses who are using Valentine’s Day as an excuse to hang out with friends, meet new people and – genuinely – share the love.

So put your Valentine’s hatred to one side, and join me on the love train to discover how UK students plan to spend February 14th.

Share the love

First stop is St Andrews University, where you’ll find more ‘V-Day’ events than there are calories in a box of Valentine’s chocolates. These students aren’t just giving to their ‘special someone’ – they’re sharing their gift with people in need.

People in the UK often organise events to raise money for charity, and Valentine’s Day is a big deal for students at the Scottish university where Prince William met his future wife, Catherine Middleton – now the Duchess of Cambridge.

Student charity society The Lumsden Club runs two events: a Valentine’s Delivery Service, bringing cards, chocolates and flowers to friends and sweethearts, and a Valentine’s Day party in the evening, which is a highlight of the St Andrews social calendar. Last year the club raised £1,030 for the charities Parkinson’s UK and Afghan Connection – and they’re aiming to beat that in 2014.

Lumsden President Sarah Clark, 21, an International Relations undergraduate from Toronto, Canada, said: 'Having done what we used to call ‘Valentine-o-grams’ at my high school in Toronto, this was definitely the step above.

'Roses were a perfect way for friends and couples and the odd joker to be able to show a nice gesture and at the same time, contribute to important charities.'

Watch them on video here:

'The best part for us was delivering the roses the morning of Valentine’s Day. I can’t wait for it to kick off again this year and be the cupids of St Andrews once more!'

Other student societies managed to raise another £850 for charity by organising Valentine’s-themed events. Now that’s a lot of love!

Find the love

Charity is all around us at Sheffield University too. The psychology society The Psychos and economics society Econsoc have joined forces for a charity, Take Me Out, based on a well-known dating show in the UK. Students can join in or watch as guys and girls compete for dates – with all money from ticket sales going to good causes.

Write the love

At Birmingham City University, tech-smart students are expressing their romantic feelings on the online Wall of Love. Members of the Students' Union can upload (sensible!) pictures, write messages and be as open or as anonymous as they like in telling a special person or people how much they love them. So far we’ve seen pictures of cakes, screenshots of admirers and even a bit of poetry – although one student used the wall to ask his friend: 'If you’re going to the shops, do you mind buying me some cheese?' Well, they do say it’s the little things that show the most love…

Escape the love

If you really want to get away from it all, Newcastle University might have just the thing for you. The Students' Union is promising an ‘anti-Valentine’s film night’. Members can come and watch a film that promises to have not one reference to love in it. Can you guess the film?

Love from home

None of these appeal to you? Try knocking on your neighbour’s door in your halls of residence. With people from around the world studying at UK universities, you’ll find all sorts of ways to get the most out of the day – as Munachiso Ogu-Jude, a 27-year-old Law LLB student at Birmingham City University, explains.

'I grew up in Rivers State in the south of Nigeria. At home, Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest events of the year – it’s almost bigger than Christmas. There are stand-up comedy shows and concerts – and I usually get a cake for my mum, though I’m not sure if that’s a traditional thing!

'One thing that’s very different here is the giving of flowers and chocolates – we usually give perfume, watches, gold necklaces, and things that are more expensive. But I’ve learned a lot about gift-giving in the UK and this year, I’m definitely going to send cards to my friends.

'We’ve got lots of lectures and loads of coursework in January, February and March, so it’s good to have something to look forward to after lectures. I’m organising a trip to see the Nigerian stand-up comedian Basketmouth, who is coming to Birmingham. I’ve invited friends – not just from Nigeria, but from other places – and it’ll be just like the stand-up shows in Nigeria.

'This Valentine’s Day, I’ll be looking forward to going out with my friends. They’re like my second family.'

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